Admit it. You haven't watched any Ole Miss football this season except for the game highlights. And that's understandable because the Rebels are not a good football team. Only six teams in all of college football have a more anemic offense (although they lead both Vanderbilt and Kentucky) and their defense is is not at the bottom of the barrel nationally but not so far it's out of their reach. (The good news? Within the conference they are an iota better than Kentucky and 31 yards more effective each game than Auburn's godawful D).
So in order to fill you in on all the details you'll need to know but aren't likely to get from the ESPN's second-team crew broadcasting the game we asked our good friends over at the SB Nation site covering all things Ole Miss, Red Cup Rebellion, to get us up to speed on a few particulars. The eminent Juco All-American was kind enough to comply.
You can check out my responses to RCR's questions here. - kleph
Roll Bama Roll: Ole Miss' season thus far has been... unpleasant to watch. But the Fresno State game showed progress - particularly with QB Randall Mackey staking his claim to the starter spot - and the bye week gave folks a chance to heal up and put in extra planning for Alabama.
So, is there any possible way you see they can pull off the upset? And if so, how?
Red Cup Rebellion: Not really. It’s conceivable, I guess, but it would take several non-offensive touchdowns as well as an all-world performance from our significantly-less-than-all-world defense. I’ll try to map out what we would have to do to win, but just know that no part of me expects it to happen.
Offensively, the Rebels would have to approach the game innovatively. Our predictable, plodding runs up the middle haven’t worked against Southern Illinois. There’s no way they’ll work against the Bama defense. Our runs to the outside are equally as unlikely to work since you run a 3-4. Houston Nutt has shown an absolute inability to run against a 3-4 defense, and there’s no way that’s stopping now. So sure, your entire secondary is full of NFL players, but receiver talent is a strength of our offense (even if they’re all incredibly young and raw).
If we stand a chance, it will be in utilizing that matchup (which is probably the only matchup anywhere near being anything close to even). Freshman Nick Brassell has world class speed. If we can somehow get the ball to him on a fade, a part of me thinks that perhaps even Dre Kirkpatrick couldn’t stay with him down the field. To win, we would need several big plays of offense, since we have no chance of sustaining long drives against you.
Defensively, we need to go all out in stacking the box. I realize that McCarron has performed well to this point, but obviously I’d rather have him trying to beat us than Richardson and Lacy. If we can force McCarron into third and long situations, our secondary is decent enough to make it a little bit less than easy for him to pick up first downs. What we can’t allow is for the Crimson Tide to get such a big lead that they can totally abandon the pass.
RBR: The Rebels rushing offense is ranked 99th in the nation. How much of that is due to the injury to senior Brandon Bolden and how much of it is due to the running back by committee approach Nutt has used in his absence? Is Bolden healthy now and, if so, can he add another dimension to the Rebel's offense it has so far lacked?
RCR: It’s largely due to the loss of Bolden. Against BYU, Bolden had four carries for 21 yards before spraining his ankle. He was running a commanding fashion, and BYU simply couldn’t contain him. Then he went down, and our overall team had 29 carries for 64 yards. Our coaches, for whatever reason, think that senior halfback Enrique Davis is an adequate running back. Davis had 12 carries for 28 yards against BYU. On the other hand, Jeff Scott (who is our only hope of running when Bolden is out) had just FIVE carries. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get on a tangent. The way the coaches manage our players simply baffles me.
Brandon Bolden wasn’t fully healthy against Fresno State, but we saw signs that he was getting there. Certainly the bye week was helpful to him, and perhaps he could be a key to the game, but I just don’t think it will matter. If we somehow win, it won’t be because we successfully ran against you. It will be because we were able to pick up chunks of yards through the air and not turn the ball over.
It looks like it'll matter less than we thought. Bolden is one of four Ole Miss players suspended for the game tomorrow. - kleph
RBR: On defense linebacker Mike Marry has been doing a yeoman's effort on what seems to be a sinking ship. Despite his foot injury and being on a defense ranked 86th in the country, he's third in the conference for tackles. What should we expect to see from him on Saturday?
RCR: He’s definitely the pride of our linebacking corps. Had D.T. Shackleford not torn his ACL in the Spring, I think he would have grouped with Marry and freshman Ralph Williams in making a somewhat formidable group. As it stands, the linebacking group is so thin that we’ve had to move to a 4-2-5 defense a good bit. We see more 4-3 now, but I think that’s simply because they’re trying to find anything that works. Marry is a good player, but he probably sees the tackle numbers he does as a result of being a linebacker on a team that gets down and therefore is run against a lot.
RBR: Let's talk about something positive. Ole Miss leads the nation in punt returns and is 13th for net punting. Can special teams be a big enough factor to make a difference against Alabama?
RCR: Can it be a big enough factor? Probably not. Can it be a factor? Yes. I personally watched Tyler Campbell punt a ball 70 yards in the air. It was beautiful. He’s a phenomenal punter who recently added a pooch kick to his arsenal in order to avoid kicking the ball 50 yards when we’re on the opposing 40. He’s certainly a great player to have. I just wish we had a stronger defense to really take advantage of the field position game.
Bryson Rose, our place kicker, is very reliable and has decent range. He’s not going to attempt any 50 yarders or anything, but he’s close to automatic from 30-42.
Kickoff specialist Andrew Ritter can boot the ball out of the back of the end zone. He can also boot it to the 15. Or out of bounds.
As for returns, Jeff Scott returns punts quite well. He is averaging twenty-three yards per punt return, which is impressive, but his sample size is six total returns. We just don’t force people to punt against us. Freshman receiver Tobias Singleton is handling kick returns, but he hasn’t shown an ability to do anything with them and is likely only getting the reps so that he doesn’t quit the football team. The coaches know he can be good in time, but he’s sitting behind some skilled young guys and considered leaving this Summer. I guess the coaches want to make him feel as though he’s contributing by running straight and getting the yards that anyone with his speed could get.
RBR: What is the likelihood of Houston Nutt surviving the season and if it's not much, who is the favorite among the faithful to replace him?
RCR: I hate to be in this situation, but we’re playing the role of the spurned rival. If Nutt beats Mississippi State, he likely holds onto his job. If not, he’s gonzo. I personally have liked Houston during his tenure, but I do think it’s time to get someone who can innovate instead of replicate.
Everyone talks about Mike Leach and Gus Malzahn. I’m personally a bigger fan of Kevin Sumlin, the former Oklahoma offensive coordinator who has led Houston to a 6-0 start this season. I’d love to see his offense on our sideline.